The story follows Puccini's opera, Madama Butterfly,
very closely, though they took a few liberties. At the beginning of the film, Lotus Flower is portrayed as something of a gold digger, saying "Christian lady at Mission tell me America fine place. Women free—can spend all husband's money." Also near the beginning, Allan Carver is shown succumbing to peer pressure not to take home a Chinese wife, which renders him merely a coward, rather than the case-hardened bastard that Pinkerton is in Butterfly.
He is shown as being intensely ashamed when he comes back, and his American wife as very sympathetic (they both travel there on her insistence to apologize), all of which softens their characters considerably. Lotus Flower voluntarily gives up her son to them, whereas in Butterfly,
the Pinkertons travel to Japan only because they have heard that Cio-Cio San has had a son—they come for the express purpose of taking him away from her. Madama Butterfly
is a serious condemnation of the American Character; that story was toned down considerably (partly by impugning Lotus Flower's character) for this film. Nevertheless, if you like this film, do treat yourself to a quality production of Madama Butterfly
(unfortunately not available here on IA), where you will get to hear Puccini's incomparable music.
Viewers will immediately notice that this film is heavy on the reds and greens, as are all two-color processes (such as Cinecolor). Camera and processing technologies were not yet advanced enough to handle all three primary colors (or, at least, doing so was not yet commercially feasible), so they chose red and green because flesh tones can be rendered fairly accurately with those two.
For those interested in the story (and restoration) background for this film, Wikipedia has articles on The Toll of the Sea
and Madama Butterfly.
For the fascinating history of early cinematic color processes, there is the Early Color Motion Picture Processes
section of the WideScreen Museum, and a Wikipedia article on the history of Technicolor
. Only a few of the films mentioned there are available here at IA (most of the later ones are probably still in copyright). Many thanks to the uploader for providing this one.